National News

Judge OKs WikiLeaker Manning's Name Change To 'Chelsea'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 10:13

The ex-U.S. Army intelligence analyst formerly known as Bradley Manning, made the request to reflect a change in gender identity.

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China And Beyond: NPR's Frank Langfitt Answers Redditors' Questions

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 09:34

From his base in Shanghai, Frank Langfitt covers everything from the missing Malaysian airliner to why the Chinese are wild about Sherlock. Ask him anything at 3:15 p.m. EDT today at Reddit.

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After Bitter Split, Palestinian Factions Pledge To Reconcile

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 09:11

The Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas say they will attempt to form a unity government and end a seven-year rift. Previous efforts to resolve their feud have failed.

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Amazon Prime scoops up some of HBO's hottest titles

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 09:00

Popular HBO shows like "The Wire" and "Big Love" will be available on Amazon Prime Instant Video soon. It’s the first time HBO has made its shows available to an online-only subscription streaming service.

While HBO shows like "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" have been highly coveted by streaming video companies, HBO has been reluctant to license them. In part, that’s because HBO didn’t want to cannibalize it’s cable TV business, said Paul Sweeney, an analyst with Bloomberg Industries.

“The reason they’re licensing their streaming content now is simply a realization that more and more consumers particularly younger consumers are online,” Sweeney said. “I think HBO said, ‘Listen we need to be part of that business.’”

The network isn’t giving Amazon new episodes of shows like"Game of Thrones." And not all titles -- like "Sex in the City" -- will be available on Amazon Prime. Regardless, this is a big win for Amazon in its competition with Netflix, said Brad Adgate, an analyst at Horizon Media.  

“This gives Amazon a real shot in the arm and I think Internet streaming video is going to be the next product category war,” Adgate said. He adds the deal get more people to adopt of Internet TV. 

Weekly Innovation: An Inflatable Car Seat That Comes In A Backpack

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 08:53

Parents, you are going to want to read about this prototype from Volvo. It's fully inflatable and designed to make what's normally a clunky and heavy seat both lighter and more portable.

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NFL + Hollywood = cash money

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 08:40

The Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor announced a big merger last December with the sports marketing firm IMG Worldwide.

IMG represents NFL stars, NBA players, World Cup skiiers and baseball players with multi-million dollar contracts.

"They've had to go out and raise $2.5 billion to finance this deal," says Sharon Waxman, the founder and editor-in-chief of entertainment site The Wrap, who has seen some new details about the merger. "This very ambitious acquisition of theirs of IMG -- which is the largest sports talent and events agency in the world -- is very much the minnow swallowing the whale."

Also revealed in the paperwork behind the deal? After the financing of this merger, WME will have some considerable debt racked up. They'll have to diversify their operations and find new revenue streams  to grow their company. Waxman says agencies are putting a larger emphasis on events, signing athletes, and representing corporations.

And to drive even more cash flow into the company to help fund the debt, Waxman says WME may decide to go public -- which would be a big break from tradition.

"That would be very interesting to watch. Who wants to buy those shares, who wants to own a piece of a Hollywood talent agency. That's not been something that's been available to the investor public out there before."

Music That Burns, Literally

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 08:33

Take Beyonce. Take Sinatra. Take whomever you love and set them on fire. They call it a "Pyro Board," and it plays music by pulsing the beats in flame. When the singer hits a high note — stand back.

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Obama Assures Japan Of U.S. Security Commitment

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 08:25

The president is on the first stop in an eight-day trip to Asia that also will see him visit Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea.

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Bake Bread Like A Pioneer In Appalachia ... With No Yeast

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 08:21

Bacteria can make a bread rise and give it a cheesy flavor. That's the secret ingredient in salt rising bread, which dates to the late 1700s in Appalachia, when bakers didn't have yeast on hand.

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What deflation is and why it's the worst dog ever

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 08:13

You've probably heard about inflation, when prices rise for the goods and services you buy. But how much do you know about its evil cousin, deflation.

Deflation is when the average level of prices start to fall throughout the economy.

In order to explain, we will use Econodog, a small white Coton de Tulear, courtesy of Precious Pets in Manhattan, to play the role of the economy as we walk through the city.

Precious Pets NYC

Econodog the Coton de Tulear helps us understand deflation

Like the economy, Econodog is responsible for pulling us along.

As we begin our walk, Econodog is giddy with joy. He is enthralled by cigarette butts and pigeons, and starts pulling very hard. In fact, Econodog is pulling so hard that he becomes inflationary. Inflation, of course, is when prices are rising. It happens when money is moving too fast and the economy is becoming hyperactive and flush with cash. People borrow, buy, and push up prices.

For Econodog, we pull back on the leash. For the economy in real life, the Federal Reserve does the same thing. It has a leash for money. That leash is called interest rates. The Federal Reserve will raise those rates if the economy pulls too hard. If borrowing becomes more expensive, people will think twice about throwing their money around, and they stop driving up prices.

As our walk progresses, a malaise befalls Econodog. Perhaps our walk has persisted for too long, or perhaps the rejection by the birds was too much to bear. Either way, at the corner of 51st and 2nd Ave, Econodog has become deflationary. He has stopped. He will not pull us anywhere.

Look at him. Those eyes.

Cute, yes?

WRONG. HE’S NOT CUTE. DEFLATION IS NOT CUTE.*

While you might think that things getting cheaper in an economy is good, deflation is secretly vicious**.

DEFLATION BITES

When prices fall, it’s usually when an economy is weak. Unemployment is persistent, so you find workers willing to work for lower wages. If you're a business, that's small comfort because the weak economy also means people aren't buying your stuff. So you offer price cuts to get people to buy. So prices start to fall.

And here are Econodog’s hidden fangs: "When prices start to fall, people realize prices are falling. Then they realize it's better to spend money tomorrow, when things are cheaper, than spend money today," explains economist Justin Wolfers. So people start to spend less. Which contributes to weak demand that caused the deflation to begin with. "It's self perpetuating; deflation leads to lower growth leads to deflation leads to lower growth.  It’s a deflationary spiral."

IT’S DISOBEDIENT

And unfortunately, we can’t use the leash like we could when Econodog was being INflationary. When Econodog is deflationary, he is being unruly in the opposite direction. He isn’t moving too fast and pulling too hard, he's just sitting there. Sluggish. Like a furry lump. Very frustrating: if we want Econodog to pull us along, he needs to move. But pulling on the leash won’t help. Neither shaking the leash nor throwing it will work. The dog won’t move.

That's deflation. Money is moving slowly, prices are falling, not rising. You can relax the leash as much as you want. In the case of the Federal Reserve, that means you can give as much slack as you can on interest rates, taking them down to near zero. But sometimes things are bad enough that this doesn't make the economy move. There's an expression for this – "you can't push with a string," or in this case, a leash.

YOU MUST PLAY MIND GAMES WITH IT

So there we are, on the corner of 2nd and 51st, Econodog has come to a halt. Trainer Bernadette Ambrosioni has an idea. We are near Econodog's home, so we look towards home and tell Econodog that we are going home.

Wanna go home? Wanna go home? Let’s go home!

Now that Econodog's expectations are that the walk is over and we are going home, he becomes excited and starts moving again and is joyous once more.

"Shifting expectations can be a great way of solving deflation," says Wolfers. Seriously!

Yes, when it comes to the real economy, you have to fix the underlying problem of a slow growth, but you also have to change people’s minds.

The reason is that if people expect deflation, they cause deflation. Remember, if people expect things to be cheaper in the future, they put off purchases. As a result people start to spend less, which further causes deflation. Spend less, economy shrinks, prices fall, spend less. That's the vicious cycle.

So, you change people’s expectations. You tell them you're printing money, you tell them you're going to create inflation, lower interest rates, and stimulate the economy. In fact, this is exactly what Japan is in the middle of doing.

How does this actually work? Wolfers says think of it from a business owner's perspective. "If you can convince shopkeepers that you want to bring inflation back to the economy, then they'll expect competitors will raise their prices tomorrow, therefore there's no reason for me to cut my prices today."

And, ideally, people would start spending today instead of waiting for tomorrow.

Japan dealt with deflation for more than a decade and is only now fully exiting that trap. Europe is straddling on the edge, and the U.S. is just one percentage point above deflation territory. Many economists are predicting we'll pull up just in time, but for now, the possibility is nipping at our heels.

* He's actually very cute.

** In real life this dog is adorable and we love him and he is not vicious.

A Path Out Of Prison For Low-Level, Nonviolent Drug Offenders

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 07:56

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that federal inmates serving long sentences for drug offenses will be eligible to apply for clemency if they meet six major criteria.

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American Journalist Kidnapped By Ukraine's Pro-Russia Insurgents

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 07:55

The reporter for Vice News was seized by gunmen on Tuesday but is "fine," according to a spokeswoman for his kidnappers.

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PODCAST: Is Apple the new Microsoft?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 07:38

Apple is expected to report mostly flat revenues from a year ago, when it releases earnings after the bell Wednesday. It wasn’t so long ago, of course, that Apple’s stock was a rocket ship, seeing the kind of exponential growth you find in tiny startups. Another tech company used to be like that: Microsoft. 

David Einhorn, a pretty big name among activist investors, made headlines yesterday with his “bubble basket” and for saying that there’s now a consensus that there’s a tech bubble.

Hollywood is no longer the go-to place for shooting feature films and TV shows. Just eight percent of big budget Hollywood films were made in LA in 2013, down from 65 percent in 1997. And from 2005 to 2013, California's share of one-hour TV series dropped from 64 percent to 28 percent. 

 

 

Is there another tech bubble on the verge of bursting?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 07:16

David Einhorn, a pretty big name among activist investors, made headlines yesterday with his “bubble basket” and for saying that there’s now a consensus that there’s a tech bubble. 

Activists investors buy a large chunk of stock in a company with the goal of pressuring management to make changes. At the Active-Passive Investor Summit in New York, Einhorn said his “bubble basket” is a group of stocks he’s shorting, or betting that the price will go down. While he didn’t name companies, we can assume there are tech stocks in that basket. Einhorn is betting that some stocks might fall by as much as 90 percent.  

Activists investors also raised bigger issues. Jeff Ubben, a notable west coast hedge fund investor, called into question executive compensation at the tech companies. He singled out Google’s Eric Schmidt and his $100 million pay package in 2011, which Ubben thought was outsized. Ubben noted that same year, JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon was “hauled over the coals” for getting paid $20 million.

The tech companies haven’t responded to the criticism but upshot from the summit was that tech companies need to be put under more scrutiny. 

 

The Joys Of Spoiling

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 07:13

In the Internet Age, spoilsports abound, What would drive someone to ruin it for everyone else?

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7 Weeks Before World Cup, Rio Is Rocked By Riot

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 07:08

Angry residents of a favela, or slum, set fires and threw bottles after a young man's body was found. They blame police for his death. Authorities have stepped up security in advance of the World Cup.

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Government Will Try To Persuade Sherpas To Stay On Everest

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 06:08

Some of the guides have reportedly packed up to leave. Shaken by the deaths last week of 16 Sherpas, many don't want to climb this year. Negotiators are headed to Everest's base camp.

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Death Toll Rises, Hopes Fade At Site Of Korean Ferry Disaster

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 05:00

Divers have found no air pockets where passengers might have taken refuge. They have, however, retrieved more bodies. The number of confirmed deaths has topped 150. An equal number remain missing.

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Regional airlines need pilots but offer low wages

Marketplace - American Public Media - Wed, 2014-04-23 04:08

There's a huge and growing demand for pilots at the nation's regional airlines. The Government Accountability Office says the small carriers need to hire thousands of new pilots.

So you'd think lots of folks would be in line. After all, some pilots pull in $200,ooo a year.

But starting salaries are much lower, which is sending some pilots elsewhere.

Take Doug Fowler, who quit his regional airline gig with Atlantic Southeast Airlines (now ExpressJet) after nine months.

"My paycheck -- my [take] home pay -- was $13,300," Fowler says.

According to the Air Line Pilots Association, the average co-pilot at a regional carrier starts out at about $22,000. That's $10 an hour. Fowler says he had to work a second construction job just to pay the bills.

"You should be paid more than $20,000 a year," he says, citing the responsibility pilots have for the fifty passengers on board. "My wife's life is worth more than twenty grand a year," he says. "So that's the way we look at it."

But that's not how regional carriers look at it. They bid contracts to the big airlines to fly small planes on short routes. It's fiercely competitive. So about the only way to make money is to pay pilots next to nothing.

"Typically, pilots worked in this position and moved on to another company, so the airlines felt they were being used as a stepping stone," says aviation consultant Kit Darby. Everyone knew the game. "Since they were leaving anyway, there wasn't much incentive to provide a living wage at the starting position," Darby says.

All that used to happen quickly. Within a year, you were on your way to captain's seat and better pay.

But now there are more barriers.

Mandatory retirement for pilots went from age 60 to 65. And a new Congressional mandate requires pilots amass 1,500 flight hours before they can get an airline job. That's a 600 percent increase.

Darby says something's got to give at the regionals.

"They have to be mindful that they are competitive with other companies, or they'll take what is an inadequate supply and turn it into no pilots available."

Doug Fowler, the pilot who quit, says he might return to the big guys one day. But for now, he's content flying corporate customers in a single-engine turboprop at about $30,000 a year.

Dirty Money: A Microbial Jungle Thrives In Your Wallet

NPR News - Wed, 2014-04-23 03:40

A look at the critters that live on money finds about 3,000 types of bacteria. Most are harmless. But researchers found traces of DNA from anthrax and drug-resistant pathogens, too.

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